THE three kings followed their star of wonder and arrived in Orgiva last night to commemorate the Dia de los Reyes. The Spanish don’t celebrate Christmas Day with the enthusiasm of we peoples of the north; January 6 is their main event, or Twelfth Night as it is known. The Magi are delivered from the east on pick-up trucks and their helpers toss sweets and toys to the crowd. Once installed on their thrones, instead of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they distribute presents (which have been discretely deposited by parents beforehand) to the children of the town. And as if by magic, swallows and house martins – which I thought had flown south many weeks ago – emerge from the church belfry like silver sparks in the glare of the street lamps and swoop above our heads. It’s a pleasant affair . . . Continue reading We three kings
SOMETIMES I wish I’d been a stonemason engaged in restoring cathedral spires, or a potter shaping clay into useful and attractive objects. Or a bookbinder, or a crafter of fine leather, or a cabinetmaker – someone with a skill who can gather raw materials in his hands and fashion them into items that possess beauty. I feel a bit like that today when I visit a weaver’s workshop in the Alpujarran village of Pampaneira, high in the Sierra Nevada mountains of southern Spain . . .
We have visitors staying; and one of them, Sue, knows all about weaving and looms and warp and shuttles, and all that stuff, and is keen to impart her knowledge. I listen attentively as we walk about the workshop, though I must admit I find the process a complicated business and most of the information flies over my head.
I look about the workshop and I want to be a weaver. I have an overwhelming desire to sit at the loom and create something that will give people pleasure. Why wasn’t I provided with this option by the careers officer in my final year at school? Why didn’t someone say: “Right, you’ve all read George Eliot’s Silas Marner and we all wear clothes and have access to materials – who wants to be a weaver instead of going in the shipyard?” But it didn’t happen.
Why didn’t someone say: “We all use pots so who wants to be a potter? The world is full of churches and grand buildings, so who wants to be a stonemason?”
Perhaps they did but I just wasn’t listening. Perhaps, at sixteen, many of us do not possess the faculty to see beyond the easiest option. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a weaver now.
IN Capileira, during summer months, flags come out and hand-woven banners are strung above alleys and pinned to walls. Midday arrives, and no one walks the streets except people with cameras. Capileira is Spain’s second-highest village – but that doesn’t render the air any cooler. Perhaps, because it’s closer to the sun, it’s slightly hotter . . . Continue reading Sounds of silence . . .
CHRIST emerges from his refuge for the second time in as many weeks and again he is greeted by the sinners. The Sweet Name of Jesus band plays mournful tunes while the hooded penitente parade behind the cross through the streets of Orgiva. It’s a spectacle . . . Continue reading Bearing crosses
IT’S the annual Cristo festival, traditionally held a fortnight before Good Friday. Jesus and his mother are escorted from the Church of Our Lady of Expectation into the warm evening sunshine. In preparation, evil spirits are banished to ensure their passage will not be hindered. In the old days, the population of the Alpujarran town of Orgiva would bang pots and pans to drive out malevolence. Nowadays, 455 kilograms of gunpowder is used. That’s nearly half a tonne of high explosives in the form of thousands of fireworks. It’s extremely effective . . . Continue reading A wondrous cross
I ONCE worked with two old boys called Carl and Jimmy. They weren’t old really, they just seemed old at the time. It was the early 1980s and I’d be in my late twenties, they in their early forties. Early forties isn’t old, unless you happen to be observing things from the viewpoint of someone twelve years younger . . . Continue reading Passing clouds
OLIVE HARVEST, DAY 5: An epiphany at the mill. We’ve tipped our sacks of olives into a hopper, and the cumulative weight of Fiona’s, Bruce’s and my produce has topped at 727 kilograms. We’ve hung about for nearly five hours waiting our turn in the milling process. We’ve watched in stoic silence as tonnes of shiny black and green fruits have been mashed in the mashers and spun in the spinners, while our batch edges closer to its fate. Waiting their turn in front of us with about 1.5 tonnes of olives to crush is a large family consisting of the grandfather, six or seven middle-aged sons and daughters – or sons-in-law and daughters-in-law – and a couple of teenage grandchildren. As their golden oil begins to flow from a tap, the grandfather produces a fresh loaf of bread . . . Continue reading Bread and thanks